The timing of the Income Tax Department raids on two close aides of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is intriguing and reeks of political vendetta. In spite of several court directives and guidelines on such raids, the Central agencies chose to publicise and highlight information they purportedly unearthed, sounding like press statements of the rival party.
The use of money that is unaccounted for in elections has always been an open secret in Indian elections. Many a political analyst believes that the limit on poll expenses for Assembly and parliamentary elections should be raised. The current limit of Rs 25 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, respectively, is laughable, impractical and makes every potential lawmaker, without exception, corrupt and guilty. At a time when reforms are a buzz word, this area needs urgent attention and action.
Assuming that every candidate and political party of consequence uses black money, how is it that only Opposition leaders and parties face income tax raids? The corrupt need to be punished regardless of their political affiliations. This is what had happened with former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman, who had figured in a Tehelka sting operation. India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had also urged voters in Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh, to reject Congress nominee Arjun Singh's father Shiv Bahadur Singh, who was involved in a bribery case.
However, for Nath, these I-T raids come with the potential to affect the outcome of the election in urban areas, where corruption in high places is a potent political issue. The income tax raids were conducted at a time when the Madhya Pradesh chief minister was hoping to help the Congress win 12 or more Lok Sabha seats in the state. The party had won only two of the 29 parliamentary seats in 2014.
His trusted aide RK Miglani's alleged involvement in corruption is disturbing as he has been with the Congress leader for over four decades. There are no other such allegations against Miglani, who was part of the Indian Youth Congress under the leadership of Sanjay Gandhi.
Furthermore, the income tax raids in Bhopal, Indore and Delhi have put the Election Commission in a bit of a spot. The credibility of the election watchdog is already under question because of the telecast of NaMo TV and a number of irresponsible, toxic and communal statements made by key political players.
The issue of "political raids" further corners these poll referees. The commission is not in a position to assert itself and urge the I-T department, Enforcement Directorate and a range of other Central agencies to either go slow or be neutral in the action they take against political players, including those from the ruling coalition.
The Election Commission is also unwilling to be seen as an institution that shields corrupt practices. At the same time, the failure of government agencies to keep the poll panel in the loop or inform it before taking such action raises questions. In this context, one can argue that informing the Election Commission about confidential matters of governance is neither practical nor desirable. In the din, the likes of Mamata Banjerjee and Kamal Nath will continue to cry "partisan approach" and raise the issue of selective use of government agencies.
In the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, issues of propriety often take precedence over legality. But in the Indian context, the near absence of propriety has queered the pitch.
As former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had once famously said, "I have heard of a football ground, polo ground, hockey ground, but what is a moral ground?"
This is a predicament we, as a society, have to bear with till ethics and morality take precedence.
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Updated Date: Apr 10, 2019 16:18:48 IST